San Francisco (AFP)

IPhones finally have 5G, Apple announced Tuesday at a much-anticipated industry event as the next generation of super-fast mobile phones take off in Asia and around the world.

"Today is the start of a new era," said Tim Cook, the CEO of the US electronics and tech giant, during a presentation of its new products online.

More than a year after its two rivals Samsung and Huawei, Apple introduced its first line with 5G, the iPhone 12, which will be released in the coming weeks at base prices ranging from $ 699 to $ 1,099.

"We have carried out 5G tests with more than 100 operators in 30 regions and the speeds observed are impressive," said Arun Mathias, a vice president of the Californian group.

"Under ideal conditions, we measured speeds of over 4 gigabits per second (Gb / s), and up to 1 Gb / s under typical conditions."

He also claimed that the iPhone 12 integrated "more 5G bandwidth than any other smartphone."

Despite these announcements, Apple's stock fell by nearly 3% on Wall Street.

The line-up comes with the iPhone 12 and 12 mini, which will go on sale this month, and the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, scheduled for November.

"This is the most important new product cycle for Apple since the iPhone 6 in 2014," commented analyst Dan Ives, Wedbush Securities.

- Deployment of 5G -

"Until now, most people have been wait-and-see", noted Hans Vestberg, the boss of Verizon present at the marketing event to announce that the American operator would deploy its 5G network across the United States, in order to cover 200 million people in 1,800 cities.

"5G has just taken shape," he added.

5G is still far from disrupting everyday life or industries.

In the areas covered, users notice the difference in the download of content, which is faster.

Ultimately, the new telecommunications infrastructures will have applications in fields as varied as autonomous vehicles, augmented reality and connected health.

"Last year the use cases and network deployment weren't there yet," said Stephen Mears, analyst for Futuresource Consulting.

"In 2020 the situation will not have changed much, but Apple will not want to be two generations behind 5G handsets."

The deployment of relay antennas is very advanced in parts of Asia.

Major Chinese cities have 5G and 90% of South Korea's population lives in served areas, according to Futuresource.

- Opportunities -

The firm predicts that sales of smartphones with 5G worldwide will increase from 145 million handsets in 2020 to 303 million in 2021, and 515 million in 2022.

In addition, the American telecom groups, which are already making massive investments, need outlets to justify their spending.

Operators "are waiting for the iPhone with 5G to step on the accelerator in the United States," said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy.

South Korea's Samsung and Huawei, the two biggest smartphone vendors in the world, released their first models with 5G capability in Spring / Summer 2019.

Google, for its part, recently unveiled two new devices from its Pixel brand that are also able to use the new waves.

“Apple and its Asian suppliers anticipate increased demand for the 6.7-inch model,” notes Dan Ives.

Tim Cook's firm could sell more than 75 million devices.

The analyst estimates that more than a third of the 950 million iPhones in circulation in the world, or 350 million devices, are likely to be replaced by a newer model in the coming months.

© 2020 AFP